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Tuesday, September 25, 2007

groundhog tales

So its ketchup time - literally. So the Food Pimp used to be a track star, back in the day. This weekend we went to his hometown, Punxsutawney, Pa, because he was getting inducted into the high school sports hall of fame. It's like 100 miles outside of Pittsburgh - Ketchup country. I don't think I ate any Heinz ketchup, come to think of it. So food...We flew Southwest to Vegas, so that was a short flight. We got there at 7:30, so every place was serving breakfast plates, sandwiches, breakfast burrito. I'm not a big fan of overpriced crappy breakfast. There was a Sbarro, so we were hoping for Japanese breakfast. Unfortunately, there were eggs and potatoes in the steamtable where the spaghetti and meatballs were supposed to be. So we had pizza. There were two slices of thincrust pepperoni, so Mr. FP takes those, and I get the thick crust sausage and pepperoni. His was okay, mine was so thick and chewy. He felt bad after I had a few bites and gave me one of his slices. Then we only ate the toppings of the 3 inch thick crust pizza. Then we had to wait about 40 minutes before boarding. This airport is really interesting. When I first walked off the plane, I smelled some dirty, wet smell. Then there's the slot machines, which are in the middle of the terminal. Then there were lots of old people. They were going back home from vacation. Wearing their Las Vegas t-shirts. This one group was sitting across from us. Three women and a man were in their group. The husband and wife were sitting, and the wife was worried about the whereabouts of the other 2 women. She was very nervous, and went looking. Meanwhile, another one of them came by and put her bag down, and then went to get a little more slot time in. So the other 2 women came back, and they were wondering where the 3rd was. The man told them that she came by, but they had to see for themselves, as if she were going to get lost. Finally, they all came back, but there weren't enough seats together, so they had to sit separately. These were the kind of people I looked forward to riding in a plane with...

So on the plane, the little snack box, and honey roasted peanuts. I thought they stopped serving peanuts on planes a couple of years ago because of allergies. Maybe they found this big supply of them tucked in a warehouse and wanted to get rid of them. Snack box - ritz cheese crackers, dried fruit pack (papaya,pineapple,banana, raisin), lorna doone shortbread cookies. Very healthy. And the water Deja Blue. Basically, recycled water? We got there, and the FP's Uncle Tom picked us up with his wife. 2 1/2 hours later, we're at the FP's childhood home in Groundhog Town. Starving. So the FP had been hoping for Laska's Pizza - which is a block away. Luckily, everyone was on the same page. We had a nice salad that someone had brought to the house with fresh juicy tomatoes, fresh lettuce - bottled dressings. I can't remember the brand of the vinaigrette I tasted, like a house vin, it was good. Then the pizza. This is the weirdest pizza ever. It's small - maybe 12 inches. I think that's the only size. That's not the weird part. The sauce is sweet. Not like vine ripe tomato sweet, but like cake icing sweet. You know how sometimes you get a slice of cake with so much icing that you scrape it off? (well, I eat it) That's how overly sweet this pizza was. The town just likes sweet pizza sauce. Apparently, other pizza joints have this sweet pizza. But that wasn't all that was wrong. They pretty much burn the pizza. It wasn't as bad as last time I had it. That time the crust was black. This time, I guess it was more caramelized, you know to further develop the sugars. I was pretty hungry, but I only had 2 slices, which is nothing for me. So it was not a good pizza day for me.

That night, we went to some party for a few hours. The FP's best friend's cousin's birthday, or something. So I had the local beer. IC Light. It's like soda water. It tastes like water with some carbonation. They are proud of their local brewery.

The next day we had to go to the store for the "afterparty" that was going to be at the FP's house. So we went to the beer distributor and got a Pennsylvania brew called "Buttmonkey chimp chiller ale". The label on the neck says "BM" And there's a picture of a chimp on the big label. The slogan is "Get off your butt and grab a monkey" It looked gimicky, but fun, so we got it. It turned out to be pretty good. Then we went to County Market. I can't even describe this place, but it feels like you're really experiencing the culture of the town by going in here. They had a table set up outside the exit to sign up for a gun raffle. No shit. We didn't sign up. We got limes for mojitos 59 cents a piece. We got about 20! Then we went to Carlino's. This place is legendary for their "cheeseburgers". These are really sloppy joe's on hot dog buns. I had only been to Carlino's one other time. It was lunchtime and it was very busy. It was so bland though. It was like they had just browned some ground beef and forgot to put the manwich sauce on it. This time, it wasn't busy. It's just a little place with maybe ten tables. There's articles that were published in the papers over the years on the wall. To the right is the kitchen area, which is essentially the grill and little else. So we walk in, and the guy cooking looks up from his grill and says, "Hi FP" as if he sees FP every day. I guess he knew that the FP was going home for the hall of fame induction. So we sit down, and the FP orders a beer. They actually have a good selection of beers. There's the local ones of course, Yuengling and Iron City, then there's Sam Adams, Anchor Steam, I think Stella Artois too, to name a few. So the lady asks what we want, so I allow the FP to order a cheeseburger and a hot dog for me. He and his dad both get two cheeseburgers. They come in about 2 minutes. It was pretty delicious. The hot dog wasn't overflowing with loose meat,just enough to flavor the dog. And it had a pickle spear, cheese, ketchup (Heinz), mustard and chili sauce. Then the cheeseburger. It was just enough meat to fit in the bun. Really tasty. If I were starving, I would have had 2 of each, but I really just wanted a taste.

So when we got back, the FP's mom suggested that we make the mojito mix so it's ready before the banquet. We turned into me. I made the mint syrup and squoze limes and added it to the syrup. So I had to make one to make sure it was okay. A little rum, syrup - I topped it with mint, a slice of lime and ginger ale. The ginger ale was right there, so I used that instead of club soda. Anyway, it was pretty good so we all sampled one (I had 2) before we went to the high school.

So we were all taking our time getting ready. The high school is 3 minutes away from the house driving,so everyone planned to be ready by 5:30. Everyone started getting ready at 5, so the FP's dad got so nervous about everyone being on time that he left. Wanted to be there early. The FP and I walked to his friend's house and hitched a ride with him. It was an excuse to have another drink on the way there. Since this todo was at the high school, there would be no alcoholic beverages served there.

So we all were there with at least 10 minutes to spare. The appetizers were like cheese and ritz crackers and pepperoni(there seemed to be a recurring theme this weekend). The banquet started, and the MC talked a bit, and then it was chow time. We were at the very back, so we were the last 3 tables to get food. When the row before us was waiting in line, the FP's dad stands up and tells us to get in line. So I said that the table on the end starts, so he motioned for them to stand in line, so we could stand in line behind them. I guess he was anxious to sample the feast that lay ahead. We had asked others what to expect, and they said, some crappy chicken or beef usually. But. This year, there was going to be a good caterer - Shannon's Catering. I believe they cater for the local jail. So we lined up. First was a roll and Beaver Meadow butter. I grabbed the butter wanting to taste the local dairy's offering. Then chicken breast stuffed with - well - with stuffing. Then spiral sliced ham with that glaze and the maraschino cherries (I passed on that). Then "roast beef" slices. It was greyish and it was soft. Then mashed taters, probably the flake kind. I have no objection to that. I used to eat those when I was little. Then the gravies - yella for the chicken and brown for the beef. I had spooned the beef jus onto my plate, so I didn't take too much gravy. Then a predressed salad. Where to begin. The chicken was dry, of course. The stuffing tasted okay, but it was compacted in there, so it was kinda dense and dry. The masheds were the winners. The salad was okay, but a little sweet of course. The "beef" everyone was like - what is this? Is it beef? It was just like they put it in the oven with some liquid in a pan and cooked it. No seasoning, no flavor, but you didn't need a knife to cut it. I was glad I got a small piece. So when we were done, they came by with the bus tub and cleared plates. Then the MC spoke. He introduced the guest speaker. The guest speaker was a local coach. The talked about how talent and IQ aren't enough to make a successfull person. He had a good point, but he ran over about 15 minutes longer than he was supposed to. So the inductee speeches were late. The first speech was so sad. It was made by the wife of the deceased inductee. He was pretty young, and he had recently died of cancer. I wanted to cry. The second was one of the FP's friend's uncle. He seemed a little nervous. Then the FP. He had thought through what he was going to say, but didn't write anything down. He got up, got the mic at a good level and plowed through. Great elocution. He thanked his mom for giving him work ethic, his dad for making him believe he should aim for the top, his teammates for support and his coach for being a good coach. And he thanked his two good friends for electing him into the sports hall of fame. Then there were 3 more speeches, I think. No one ran over the 5 minutes - but we weren't out of there until after 9. I haven't sat in a cafeteria chair that long since I took the SATs years and years ago.

So, the next day we were flying back out. We went to the pub in the airport. I can't remember the name. The Food Pimp had buffalo wings and french onion soup. He always gets french onion soup from this place whenever he's flying out of Pittsburgh. I had pirogues with cabbage and onions and sour cream. The pirogues were good, but I was hoping for more than just 5 shreds of cabbage and a lot of onion. Oh well, it was the airport.

When we got back into town, we didn't feel like cooking, so we went to Dao Son. The FP got the shrimp and black bean sauce again. I got the pork in lemongrass sauce. It's great cause they serve the entree on top of the rice, rather than next to a cone of rice. That way all the sauce soaks in. They were both very good, although I would have liked some vegetable with mine... it was just pork in sauce. I know, do I have to always have some kind of complaint about something? Yes, I do.

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